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Before Iraq election, Arab and Kurd tensions soar in the north

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Nujaifi did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails for comment in recent days. The local press reported Nujaifi has accused Kurdish forces of kidnapping Iraqi government forces in the incident. Detainees on both sides were freed in a prisoner exchange over the weekend.

As the country heads into national elections, followed by months of instability as a new government is formed, US officials describe Arab-Kurdish tension and its potential to flare into violence as one of their top concerns in Iraq. US military officials also worry that Al Qaeda in Iraq and other groups have exploited the gaps along the lines of control between security forces that at best do not coordinate with each other and at worst are hostile to each other.

Trouble in Talkeef

After months of negotiations with Iraqi government and Kurdish leaders, the US military started security co-ordination centers and joint checkpoints and patrols with US troops acting as a buffer between Iraqi government troops and Kurdish peshmerga forces.

The intent was to build confidence between Kurdish and Arab forces and their leaders. Instead, in one of their first major tests, US forces two weeks ago escorted the controversial Mosul governor into the town of Takleef – a Kurdish-controlled town within Ninevah province. The result was the governor alleging an assassination attempt, the arrests of Kurdish forces by the governor’s troops, retaliatory arrests of Iraqi forces by the Kurds, and temporary suspension of joint patrols and checkpoints in the province. The Kurdish government also withdrew peshmerga from joint training in protest.

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